I’ve been a huge animal lover all my life. I went vegetarian as a young child, and have been vegan for more than 8 years. These days, being vegan is a breeze! It’s easy to find delicious food options for every craving and occasion. I read clothing labels to make sure my wardrobe is kind to animals, and I’ve switched over to cruelty-free cosmetics and household products that haven’t been tested on animals. I feel more ethically aligned than ever!
But recently I’ve been struggling with an autoimmune disease, and one of the medications I may soon need to get better isn’t vegan. I’m trying other options first, but my choice may soon be between taking the non-vegan medicine and getting my life back, or remaining in a state of extreme illness. Help!
Dear Ethically Conflicted,
First of all, I am so sorry to hear about your autoimmune disease. From what (admittedly little) I know about those kinds of things, they can be incredibly frustrating to figure out and manage. So my heart goes out to you!
Second of all, thank you for caring so much about all the choices you make. I truly believe that veganism is a process, not perfection. None of us will ever be “perfect vegans.” We simply cannot exist without impacting others in some way. As much as you and I give serious thought to the effects of our actions, the exploitation of animals is so entrenched in our society that it is nearly impossible to avoid. We can drive a Prius, or go one step further and rely on public transportation to be “green,” but the reality is that tires contain stearic acid which is derived from animal fat. Ever forget your trusty reusable canvas shopping bag in the car and guiltily accept the store’s plastic one, vowing to use it as a poop bag the next time you walk your dog to offset any karmic imbalance? “Slip agents” in the plastic also come from animals. I’m willing to bet you have read a book… gelatin, derived from boiling tendons and such, is likely in the binding glue. So depressing, I know! Things are changing and our choices absolutely matter because we vote with our dollars, but in the meantime we must accept that perfection is not possible. So let’s take that pressure off of ourselves, yes?
I want you to think about all the good you do for animals, in every aspect of your life. All the ways you reduce suffering, the example you set, the ways you inspire others to also make compassionate choices. It’s so unfair that you are battling an illness that could keep you from being the best advocate you can be. The world needs you out there, doing all this good. The animals need you. My advice is to give yourself a little grace to do what is best for your health, and if taking a drug that isn’t vegan is it… then so be it. I can’t imagine the animals would tell you any differently if they could. That karmic imbalance I mentioned earlier? Any “bad karma” associated with this decision is waaaaaaaaay offset by you getting back to being YOU. And who knows? Maybe you can affect change here as well! You can certainly voice your ethics to your doctor, and he or she may have suggestions on avenues to pursue to make your views known on a larger scale. You just might find a way to take your advocacy into a whole new arena!
Ultimately we try each day to do the best we can, and it sounds like you excel at it. Take care of yourself so you can continue to do so. There’s so much work to be done and our team is infinitely better with you on it! I wish you the very best, whichever heartfelt decision you make.
Do you have vegan-related questions for Toube? Submit your “Dear Toube” questions here or below. Please note in your message whether you would like us to use your name or if you’d prefer to remain anonymous.